I sat in Large Group on Sunday, listening to the lesson. It was about our words - how they can be helpful or hurtful. And the teacher shared that God wants us to use our words in a kind manner. To encourage and build up, rather than to tear down."Because words are a powerful thing," he said. They stay with us long after they've been spoken. I looked around the room at that moment, hoping and praying the kids were all listening. Because my mind had already gone back 33 years to the words spoken to me by a classmate in fifth grade. ("Spoken" that is, via a note passed across the classroom.) She'd written:
The only reason you want (this) is because you can't have (that). And you can't be different!Yes, it has been 33 years. And I still.remember.each.word. The thing is, she was right. I had been trying so very hard to fit in. I wanted to wear designer jeans and Nike shoes - like the popular girls did. I couldn't wait until I was 12 and could get my ears pierced - like the other girls. I wished I could get hot lunch, instead of bringing my brown bag - because that's what most of the kids did. Oh, how I longed to be invited to birthday parties and sleep-overs with the favored crowd.But, for the most part, I wasn't. And with the reading of this note, I became aware that the writer (who was, of course, one of the prominent girls) was keenly aware of my want. More than that, with her words she was confirming my different-ness. Her confirmation hurt more than being kept out of the childish play-ground dare which had started the whole exchange. So I thought of this circumstance from my fifth grade year, and really hoped all the kids in Sunday school (None of whom have made it to fifth grade yet!) were listening. I prayed God would speak to their hearts, so they might always use their words to build - and never to wound. Because words are powerful. They stay with us long after they've been spoken. Remember that little rhyme we learned as children? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Well, I came up with a new one. It suits my experience much better. Broken bones from sticks and stones will surely heal one day. But scars and hurts from unkind words are likely here to stay. As we returned to our classrooms for small group time - and talked about helpful and hurtful words - even as I willed for the girls to take the lesson to heart, I found myself renewing my own commitment to helpful words. My teenagers often challenge my resolve with their teenage behavior *ahem* and I must rely fully on the power of the Holy Spirit to stay the course. But, by the grace of God, I believe it is possible.Yes, LORD, please guard my heart and my mouth. Please produce in me words of kindness, gentleness, grace, and love. That everything I say may honor You and benefit the listener.